Mike Leach’s Air Raid Offense ground to a halt while his defense did little to prevent a thorough thrashing in Washington State’s 46-7 loss to Arizona State Saturday at Sun Devils Stadium.
The Cougars (2-9, 0-8 Pac-12) quickly fell behind 11-0, then looked lifeless (empty-corpse-ish?) for the remaining three-and-a-half quarters in the penultimate game of their 2012 season.
Backup quarterback Connor Halliday hit Kristoff Williams for a 57-yard touchdown with 58 seconds remaining to narrowly avoid WSU’s first shutout this season. Following the loss to Cal, the Cougars have lost the past two road games by a combined score of 95-13. They went an appalling 1-for-16 on third down, while dropping to 1-4 on the road.
Halliday replaced Tuel late in the first quarter after the senior signal caller played apprehensively. Tuel finished 8-of-16 for 67 yards and an interception. Halliday didn’t fare much better, going 13-of-33 for 173 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Leach chose to break midseason form and not criticize position groups after the lopsided defeat. Instead he summed up his team’s ineffectiveness in his trademark rambling syntax. His voice sounded weary.
“We weren’t very precise in executing,” he said. “We let all kinds of things go. We broke coverage at times, we dropped balls, we missed tackles . . . there’d be guys running to the ball but they would just get overextended.”
He didn’t criticize Tuel or Halliday after sub-par performances, either.
“I thought they both played similar,” he said. “It’s not just either one of them. They got plenty of help out there — no question.”
WSU began the final road game with a three-and-out before allowing its fifth blocked punt in the last two games. The mishap gave ASU possession inside the Cougars’ 10-yard line. WSU held the Sun Devils to a field goal to avert an immediate crisis, but a second three-and-out allowed ASU to manufacture an eight-play, 41-yard drive that culminated with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Kelly to Rashad Ross.
ASU head coach Todd Graham opted for a two-point try. The Sun Devils converted to take the early 11-point advantage. WSU never managed any type of rebuttal.
Arizona State scored again late in the first quarter when safety Deone Bucannon blew a coverage assignment, allowing Kelly to hit tight end Chris Coyle for an 18-yard score. Kelly finished 20-of-23 for 246 yards and four touchdowns. The win pushed ASU to 6-5 (4-4 Pac-12), snapped a four-game losing streak and made Graham’s outfit bowl eligible in the head man’s first season.
The Sun Devils scored two touchdowns in the second and third quarters before mercifully running out the clock in the final frame.
ASU compiled 561 yards of total offense to WSU’s 241. A weakness all season, the Cougars again couldn’t mount a rushing attack.
WSU ended another sorrt afternoon with just one rushing yard. The defeat pushed WSU’s losing streak to eight. It also guaranteed that the Cougars won’t match their 2011 win total (4).
The Cougars have a short week to prepare to play the Apple Cup in Pullman Friday against a streaking University of Washington team (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12).
“As fast as we walk out of this locker room,” Leach said, “we need to move on to the Apple Cup because that’s a great opportunity.”